Monday, June 11, 2012
American marshmallows are not as interesting as those that are found in Europe and Japan. It’s sad, because I would think that the United States has the capacity and the desire to eat really good marshmallows.
So I was surprised and pleased to find this bag of Mallo-Licious: Strawberry filled with Chocolate on display at the end of the candy aisle at Walgreen’s. They come in other flavors as well. I saw Green Apple (filled with green jelly) there and the package says they also come in Sour Peach.
I’ve had quite a few Frankford candies over the years, which is not a very well known brand. They make licensed candy and have another sub-brand called Kandy Kastle. Much of their candy is made in China, though Frankford has a small chocolate factory in Pennsylvania (where they started) that makes mostly novelty foil wrapped molded pieces. For the most part, their stuff is sub-par, some of it actually horrible. But I saw that this candy was made in Italy, so I thought it might be different.
They are shaped like real strawberries, and are actually sized like an average strawberry as well. They’re over two inches tall from the tip of the berry to the top of the green “stem”. It’s a standard marshmallow but instead of the campfire style, these are covered with fine granulated sugar. It gives them a little sparkle and in the case of the strawberry flavor here for review, it gives it a slight grainy crunch that vaguely mimics strawberry seeds.
The marshmallow berry is filled with a little dollop of what is called chocolate on the front of the package, but the ingredients are probably more on the order of sugar, palm oil, milk powder and fat reduced cocoa.
The ingredients as a whole are pretty substandard (though what I’d expect from Frankford). It starts with sugar and high fructose corn syrup. See, here’s what so surprising about that. There are a lot of people who assume that candy has a lot of HFCS in it, but in reality there are very few candies that do. This is, though, the second candy I’ve had in the past month that does, and marks only the fifth since I’ve been keeping the database that I’ve noticed it.
The marshmallow is soft and has a pleasant strawberry scent, a combination of toasted sugar like cotton candy and a light floral note of pineapple. The bite has the slight grain and the marshmallow is bouncy and melts quite easily, more like a meringue than some latexy gelatin-rich marshmallows. The chocolate inside is more like a soft paste that has a cake batter flavor to it and very little actual chocolate flavor.
It’s not horrible, but much better to look at than actually eat. Honestly, I think they’re charming and wouldn’t be afraid to use them to decorate a cake or put amongst some home baked cookies on a tray for dessert without ever telling people they’re edible. (Lest the eat them.) I’m sure children will enjoy them. I’m thinking about trying to toast them.
Friday, June 1, 2012
All share the use of M&Ms chocolate candies and pretzels, but then have slightly different elements from there. The basic mix, based on the Milk Chocolate M&Ms is Milk Chocolate M&Ms Snack Mix Salty & Sweet.
The bags are eight ounces and I got mine on sale for $3 each at Walgreen’s, but I have to believe that they’re going to be priced less than that on a regular basis for them to catch on.
First I have to say that the packaging is well done. The stand up bag does stand up and the zip lock closes easily and securely enough to both keep contents from spilling and protect from moisture. The bag also will sit “open” well enough to serve from.
The items within the Milk Chocolate mix are: Roasted Peanuts and Crunchy Pretzels from the salty side and mini Chocolate Chip Cookies and Milk Chocolate M&Ms from the sweet side.
In the case of my bag, things appeared to be packaged in tiers, so all my peanuts were at the bottom and all my pretzels were at the top. So when I first dumped it out for photographing, I missed the peanuts entirely. (See below.)
The pretzels are barely an inch across and just lightly salted, which I thought was perfect. They’re not so big that they took up a whole bite, allowing me to combine elements for a customized flavor/texture profile.
The little chocolate chip cookies are like Chips Ahoy!. A bland vanilla cookie with teensy little chocolate chips. They’re about .8 inches around and reminded me of Cookie Crisp Cereal in shape, but actual chocolate chip cookies in flavor. They’re a little salty, very sweet and nicely crunchy.
The M&Ms are, well, Milk Chocolate M&Ms. They’re a bit dusty with crumbs or salt, but otherwise fresh and crunchy, the sweetest thing in the bag.
The peanuts, well, this is where things took a bad turn. I didn’t like the peanuts at all. I thought they were roasted too dark, they were bitter and sometimes chalky. Since everything else in the bag was perfectly fresh, it made very little sense to me why they were consistently so unappealing. (One or two bad peanuts are understandable, but they were all the same color, uniformly small in size and rather lifeless.) I have to wonder if they were a bit on the over-roasted side as a way to stabilize them, especially the fats in peanuts that can make everything greasy.
As long as I ate the peanuts in the same bite as something else, I didn’t mind the. But on the whole, I prefer a snack mix with a strong protein component (usually from nuts).
This bag features a mix of salted roasted almonds and pretzels along with mini shortbread cookies and Peanut M&Ms.
The little shortbread cookies are similar to the chocolate chip ones in size, but actually more successful in this application. The flavor is quite good, I got a great sense of the toasted shortbread cookie with its vanilla flavor. But what was really interesting was that the salt from the almonds had rubbed off on the, so there was an excellent contrast going on. They’re dense and crunchy and not too sweet.
The pretzels were again nicely layered in, a good crunch with a mild flavor.
The almonds were tiny, but roasted perfectly thought slightly over-salted for my tastes. (The overall sodium level for the snack mix is 125mg for a 1/3 of a cup portion which is about 190 calories.
The Peanut M&Ms were, well, exactly like Peanut M&Ms. They were big and had a lot of crackle going on and added a buttery element to the whole mix.
All of the items went with each other. An almond with a Peanut M&M was great. A cookie with a pretzel was also really satisfying. I was surprised at how much I liked this mix, though it does combine some of my favorite items. It was the cookies I was hesitant about, but they really did add to the satisfaction level.
The mix contains salted, roasted almonds and pretzels along with raisins and Dark Chocolate M&Ms.
This is the “healthiest” of the mixes, if you go by calorie load. There are 132 calories per ounce, slightly less than the milk chocolate mix with a half a gram less saturated fat but still 16 grams of sugars. But it does have a bit of iron at 6% of your daily recommended allowance and two grams of fiber.
Of course all of that relies on eating the exact proportions of each element in the mix. If you pick out the M&Ms and almonds, well, all bets are off.
The mix is attractive and has a good salty note to it from the pretzels and the almonds. The raisins were pretty big, soft and juicy without being sticky. The Dark Chocolate M&Ms pair well with any of the elements. Part of me would like to see a more interesting dried fruit in the mix, like dried cherries or cranberries (which do suffer from being sweetened) but this version does fit the bill by adding in a little tangy chew.
These are not candy. There’s very little candy in there, by most accounts, about 25% of it is actually M&Ms, the rest of snack foods. Mars has made a nice mix and chosen each element pretty well and balanced them expertly.
It’s a good mix for a lot of different purposes. Easy to share you can take it on an airplane, a car trip or a movie theater (of course you’d pay concession prices ... probably about $8 a bag). I prefer to make my own mixes, but if I have to grab something already made a store, this is a fair value.
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Commercial peanut butter began in the United States, where about 6-7% of the world’s peanuts are grown in any year. Peanut butter was used heavily during war years as a cheap and relatively stable protein source for soldiers. The story goes that soldiers during World War II would eat sandwiches on stale bread with peanut butter for weeks on end, and to moisten the bread they would add jelly or jam. It didn’t hurt that it also made it taste better as well. When the soldiers returned home, they introduced their families to this cheap and easy food.
It seems kind of strange that for the most part candies are either jelly and chocolate or peanut butter and chocolate. There really aren’t any successful mass-manufactured chocolate, peanut butter and jelly candies. Maybe this new bar, all the way from Poland, will change that.
The bars are tiny, the box holds more than a half a dozen of them (8 to be exact), a little expensive for $1.99 but at least a unique item.
Each little bar is individually wrapped in a paper foil. The recommended serving size is three sticks, each is about 60 calories.
The bars are a little on the soft side, they smell like roasted peanuts and chocolate milk. The peanut butter filling is sweet and a little sticky. On top of the peanut butter is a thin layer of jelly. In this case it’s grape and though it doesn’t have much of intensity, it’s a little pop of tangy, juicy flavor. The peanut butter isn’t so much a paste, it’s far sweeter and has less of a roasted, salty and savory punch. Think of it like peanut butter cookie dough, sweet and thick.
The proportions are a little off for me. I’d like more jam, more peanut butter, but I think that’d mean a larger bar in general. The petite size makes them ideal for a small treat and I think the mild flavor set would be good for smaller kids. The two integral parts here, the peanut butter and jelly just aren’t good enough. It should be really intense peanut butter and great, all natural grape jelly, not some high fructose corn sweetener flavored like grape.
These are made in Poland and have all sorts of allergen notices on the package: made with soy, dairy, peanuts plus traces of wheat, tree nuts and eggs.
Friday, March 16, 2012
I found the Russell Stover Big Bite Pecan Delight Egg at Walgreen’s along with the other super-sized Easter classic, the Coconut Cream in the shape of a Big Bunny.
Pecans and Caramel covered in Milk Chocolate
Ah, a pecan turtle. What a fabulous candy. The roasted, maple flavors of pecans with their oily crunch go so well with the burnt sugar, sweet chewiness of caramel with it all encapsulated in creamy milk chocolate.
I’ve reviewed a few different versions of these in the past. The first one I tried was the Organic Pecan Delight, which were sold individually wrapped and bagged. They were good, but lacked a lot of pecans. The second one I tried was the traditional Easter favorite, the Pecan Delight Egg ... well, that one was even more parsimonious with the pecans. Then most recently I tried the non-organic version of the Pecan Delight and was similarly underwhelmed.
So, would scaling up make a difference?
They weren’t kidding about it being a big bite. It’s two ounces, so of course it’s big, but that’s the same size as a Snickers bar. It’s packed with 290 calories as well. What it’s not packed with is pecans. Those little lumps on the outside ... those are the pecan pieces. That’s it. No hidden nuts inside the caramel center.
I can sit around being disappointed that there aren’t more pecans in this. (I can also call it false advertising.) But the reality is that it’s still a good piece of candy if you adjust expectations. The milk chocolate is passable - it’s sweet and milky and though a bit fudgy and grainy, it still has a pleasant melt and mouthfeel. The caramel center is salty and though sweet, not overly cloying or syrupy. The caramel is smooth, without the slightest bit of grain. It’s pretty gooey, but not chewy. The small bits of pecans gave it a roasted nutty flavor, but not much texture overall.
Would this have been better with more pecans? Absolutely. Would it have cost a dollar? No, not possible. It was a bad year for pecans, the price went way up. The solution to this is for Russell Stover to not offer this candy at this price point, or to adjust our expectations by not saying that it’s the Pecan Delight.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Easter is the time of cream eggs. There are so many different versions and Russell Stover makes about half of them. From caramel and peanut butter to raspberry whip and strawberry cream, they go for variety. This year their newest introduction is not another egg, but a reshaping of one of their classic eggs into a different format. Behold the Russell Stover Big Bunny Dark Chocolate & Coconut Cream.
The package design is nice, I liked it quite a bit, with its bold illustration style. Though the wrapper is a bit flimsy, it seems to do a good job of protecting the contents. It says that it’s made with 100% real chocolate, which is great news and that it’s made proudly in America. They were on sale for $1.00, which is a pretty good deal for a 2.25 ounce candy bar these days.
The bunny is large, just as the package promised. It’s a little over 5 inches tall (though one of my ears was a bit broken off because I fumbled with it when I took it out of the wrapper).
The shape is only vaguely rabbit. I’m not even sure if it’s just a giant rabbit head or supposed to be a whole rabbit body. It’s enrobed though, which is my favorite kind of chocolate coating. If you’ve ever seen a chocolate enrober, you’ll understand part of my fascination with the technique. A center is pushed through a curtain of melted chocolate, which coats it and hardens as it moves along a conveyer that cools it. (Watch it here, it’s kind of mesmerizing.)
The chocolate is thick enough to create a bit of crunchy break when I bit into it. Because of the irregular shape of the rabbit, it also meant that the ratio of chocolate to coconut would change. The center was thick and had a large density of coconut cream. The cream is light and airy with a smooth sugary grain to it and not too much coconut. The coconut is in very small pieces, less like a Mounds or Almond Joy. There’s even a light hint of salt in there.
It’s a nice product, easier to eat, oddly enough, than the egg version that’s a classic. However, it’s quite large. The package says that it’s one portion, which is 280 calories. I’d prefer to consume it in two or three sittings, as I did. The package was pretty easy to open and fold over and tape closed between those portions.
It’s a good addition to the Russell Stover line of Easter goodies. It’s not overwhelming as a huge chocolate rabbit, but a little more precious than the chocolate covered coconut cream egg.
Though it’s made with dark chocolate, there’s plenty of dairy in there and may contain traces of nuts.
Thursday, March 1, 2012
Ferrara Pan is introducing quite a few new products lately, especially for the holidays. I noticed this last year when I saw a more generic item on the shelves called Ferrara Pan Chicks & Bunnies Jelly Candy. This year I didn’t see that product on shelves again, instead I found what seemed more exciting and actually got my mouth watering: Lemonhead & Friends Jellies in Fun Springtime Shapes.
It’s a super simple classic candy, a moist, jelled sugar in fruit flavors coated in crunchy sugar.
The name Lemonhead brings to mind a sweet and tart candy, that’s layered with bursts of flavor that includes zest, tartness and sweetness. Let me just start off saying, there is nothing Lemhonheady about these. The assumption I made was that these sugary coatings were also tart. There’s not one iota of tartness in these. But let me move on and tell you what you do get.
The pieces are huge. Larger than I expect something like a jelly to be, though they’re probably about the same weight as a jelly orange slice, they just seemed more than two bites big. They come in two shapes, chicks and rabbits.
Green = Green Apple: this was strange. It was like the artificial banana equivalent of green apple. A strange vaporous version with a slight acetone burn to it. It was all sweet and no tartness, so the flavor was missing a lot of the key flavor oomph.
Red = Cherry: was sweet and almost floral. It was a like a rose flavored version of fake cherry. The bitter aftertaste of the artificial colors was quite noticeable in this rather dark red jelly candy.
Purple = Grape: this has so much going on for it from the smell. It was like a grape soda in the shape of a chick ... until I bit into it and it was all promise and no delivery. The inky grapeness was there as a scent, but there was no malic acid tartness to go along with it. The artificial coloring also gave it a weird aluminum note.
Yellow = Lemon: citrus flavors always go so well with jellies because there are a few flavor notes that go beyond the tangy juice. In this case the zest is dead on, though a little bitter and the sweet floral notes are present. It’s a smidge on the grapefruit side, but I still enjoyed it.
Orange = Orange: like the lemon, this had two components, a note of the orange peel and a bit of floral soapiness. It wasn’t as strong as the lemon, but the balance is good and placed this one among my favorite three flavors.
Pink = Watermelon: was completely unexpected. I thought this was going to be strawberry. The flavor is strange, it reminded me of fresh laundry from the dryer ... there was a sort of static cling smell (I can’t really explain it) and a sweet floral note rather like strawberry and limes.It was really dreadful and bizarre.
The Ferrara Pan more generic jellies were far less expensive and didn’t promise me anything, so I couldn’t be disappointed. The Lemonhead & Friends Jellies captured me with the idea that they were like Lemonheads, that they were going to be tart. That’s an interesting proposition. On the other hand, these fruit jellies do come in some more unusual flavors - I’ve never seen Watermelon or Green Apple jellies before. So if you’ve always hated the tartness of Lemonheads, here’s an opportunity to partake of the brand.
If you’re looking for the best sour jelly, try the Gimbal’s Sour Lovers.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
It’s exciting to see a new Cadbury product for Easter. The Cadbury brand is so inextricably tied to Easter is many American’s minds because of their iconic products like the Cadbury Creme Egg and the Cadbury Mini Chocolate Eggs.
This year Hershey’s in the United States is rolling out the Cadbury Chocolate Creme Egg. (I didn’t see that these are for sale in the UK.) They’re made by Cadbury Canada, not imported all the way from the UK by Kraft.
They’re only 1.2 ounces these days, but I think that’s actually a good size for such a thing.
If there’s one thing that Cadbury Creme Eggs mess with, it’s the definition of creme. I consider a creme to be creamy, something with a bit of fat in it, something that’s smooth. The traditional Creme Egg has a fondant which is actually smooth, but doesn’t rise to the level of something that’s actually creamy. It doesn’t melt in your mouth, it dissolves.
These eggs are not a ganache center, instead it’s a smooth fondant. I expect little from a Cadbury chocolate ingredient-wise; I know it’s a lot of sugar. But I was dismayed to see that the ingredients included things like palm oil and high fructose corn sweetener. (And it’s not easy to see those things, it’s printed on the foil but not on the website, so I had to carefully flatten the foil, then photograph it and zoom in to read it.)
The Cadbury Chocolate Creme Egg gets closer to that creamy ganache that I would hope it would be, but misses a bit. Basically, if you love chocolate frosting, you’ll love the Chocolate Creme Egg.
It was pretty good. Much better, in my opinion, than the traditional plain fondant version. The fudgy center has plenty of cocoa in it, and it is quite smooth, like a rich tub of frosting. There may even be a little salt in there, which offsets the sticky, sickly sweet milky chocolate The cocoa notes of the filling are more like a Tootsie Roll than a chocolate truffle, but that’s just fine for Easter.
I like this addition to the Cadbury Egg offerings.
There’s no statement about the ethical sourcing of the chocolate, though Cadbury is going Fair Trade with many of their UK chocolates. It’s made on shared equipment with peanuts and tree nuts. I couldn’t find a gluten statement.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Ferrara Pan which is known for Lemonheads and Atomic Fireballs got into the chocolate business a few years back making very good domestic versions of segmented chocolate oranges (with Belgian chocolate) and panned nut treats. This new Ferrara Chocolate group is also creating some new holiday items, I was excited to see these fun speckled eggs called Candy Coated Chocolate Covered Almond Eggs at Walgreen’s.
The bag is priced pretty well, at $2.49 for a half a pound, it’s about what I will pay for Almond M&Ms on sale.
The eggs are a nice size, indicating that they either have a lot of chocolate in there or start with very large almonds. They’re a milk chocolate product with a lot of milk in them. The first ingredient in the chocolate coating is sugar, the second is whole milk. So, that’s some milky chocolate. The coatings are attractive. They start with a pastel base and have little speckles on them. Some are quite speckled, others have barely a burnishing of color.
The ratios are great, the chocolate is thick and the almonds are nicely sized and well roasted to a crunch. The milky chocolate is sweet, but not that Easter-cloying sweetness. The level of milk in it gives it a cool melt on the tongue and a light toffee and dairy finish. The other notes are a bit of smoke, either from the chocolate itself or the almonds and maybe a hint of cinnamon (they are the makers of Red Hots). The shell is a little thinner than M&Ms so it has a lighter crunch.
They’re good. Good enough that I ate the whole bag in three days. They’re different from M&Ms, the melt of the chocolate is less sweet and less fudgy and a little smoother, but the flavor isn’t quite as intense. I prefer the look of the Ferrera to M&Ms and the consistent shape of the candies.
The candies are Kosher and made in the United States with Belgian chocolate. No gluten statement. There’s also no statement about the sourcing of the cacao and ethical concerns on the package or their website.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.